X Japan: How Japan’s Biggest Rock Band is Poised to Achieve American Success

X Japan

X Japan

Reading a list of X Japan’s accomplishments on a press release issued by their American promoter’s Web site is like checking off a wish list for every Japanese band hoping to make it big on American soil. “They are the biggest rock band in Japanese history,” it says before continuing their list of accoldes. They’ve sold out Japan’s Tokyo Dome, a venue that holds 55,000 screaming fans, 18 times. Their album sales are more than 30 million world wide. They’re credited with pioneering a genre of Japanese music called Visual Kei. Their song “I.V.” appeared on the Saw IV soundtrack and on Rock Band 2 as downloadable content.

And yet, the press release says, “even with all of this success, you may have never heard of them.”

It seems no matter how much success a Japanese band enjoys, there will always be an invisible wall preventing them from receiving mainstream recognition in the States. Polysics have toured here for years and produced English versions of their albums. Yet next time they roll through your town you can bet they’ll be relegated to a tiny venue, not an arena (if they play your town at all). You’ll probably never hear a radio station play Shonen Knife despite the cult following they’ve earned by touring with Nirvana in the ’90s. If Grunge Rock’s most idolzed figure can’t propel a Japanse band to stardom, who can?

My yen’s on X and if you’ve kept an eye on what they’ve been up to lately, it’s easy to see why.

In February, X Japan confirmed their plans to play at Lollapalooza in Chicago. That means hundreds of thousands of people will be exposed to the band’s over the top performance and blazing pyrotechnics; and that’s just the warm-up. Earlier this month, X Japan announced a North America tour kicking off in October and a new album featuring English versions of classic songs.

Strategcally speaking, if there was ever a chance for a Japanese band to achieve some sort of main stream acknowledgement in the U.S., this is it. A new album, a North American tour, and a main stage performance at Lollapalooza means X Japan have set themselves up for success in a way every other Japanese band has only dreamed of. Still the queston remains: will it be enough?

There seems to be a mysterious stigma associated with listening to music in a language you may not be able to understand. You can call it a language barrier, but I think there’s more to it than that. Here’s an experiment: tell a friend you’ve got this new song you want them to listen to. Play a section of a Japanese song without lyrics and see if they like it. If they do, tell them its Japanese and watch how fast they change their mind. It’s as though a their minds instantly file any song identified as Japanese to a folder labeled “things I couldn’t possibly relate to.”

To their credit, X has made huge efforts in their study of the English language. Compare Toshi’s English from Blue Blood to his more recent work and you can tell how far he’s come. Still, it’s hardly perfect. Even if it was, will an English version of “Kurenai” live up to the Japanese version? I’m not so sure.

The story of whether X meets with victory or defeat begins with their Lollapalooza performance on August 8. Leading up to that date I intend to publish a seres of posts covering the band’s history starting with a fateful meeting between Yoshiki and Toshi in high school, continuing through the death of Hide and the band’s break up and wrapping up with a look at the band’s reunion in 2007.

Stay tuned.


~ by Jonathan McNamara on 2010/07/18.

One Response to “X Japan: How Japan’s Biggest Rock Band is Poised to Achieve American Success”

  1. Greetings!

    My name is Kateri Lirio, and I am working with JrockRevolution.com on the campaign to support X JAPAN’s US debut appearance at Lollapalooza. I contacted you a few weeks ago about the “X Perience” campaign.

    I see that your website is dedicated to supporting Japanese music. Your content is very enjoyable and resourceful for readers, and I was wondering if I can interest you in writing about the “X Perience” campaign.

    The “X Perience” is JrockRevolution.com’s official campaign to unite the Japanese rock world to support X JAPAN’s U.S. debut appearance THIS WEEKEND at Lollapalooza! A microsite for the “X Perience”, which is dedicated to all news and events surrounding this event, has been launched on JrockRevolution.com and provides features such as a fully interactive forum, link to ITC Travel ‘n Tours for travel/hotel accommodations, and is the only place where fans can order the essential X Perience Fan Package.

    This special memorabilia is an authorized package including exclusive merchandise such as the “X Perience” T-shirt, thunder sticks (represent by creating an “X” with these at the concert), wrist band, and other items that may yet be announced. This package is available for purchase now for X fans all over the world.

    I can send you the press release, web banner, and definitely check out: http://www.jrockrevolution.com/theXPerience and let your readers know about the “X Perience”!

    Thank you for your time. Let me know if you’d like me to send you some more web banners too! I hope to hear from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    Kateri Lirio
    Project Coordinator | The Noise Academy
    E: kateri@thenoiseacademy.com

    This message contains information which may be confidential and privileged. Unless you are the addressee (or authorized to receive for the addressee), you may not use, copy, re-transmit, or disclose to anyone the message or any information contained in the message. If you have received the message in error, please advise the sender by reply to kateri@thenoiseacademy.com and delete the message. E-mail communication is highly susceptible to spoofing, spamming, and other tampering, some of which may be harmful to your computer. If you are concerned about the authenticity of the message or the source, please contact the sender directly.

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